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PM’s Address at the Inauguration of four Year Long Celebrations of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary

January 12, 2011
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The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has inaugurated the four year long celebrations of Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the PM's speech on the occasion: 

"I am honoured to be present here today on this very happy occasion of the inauguration of the four year long celebration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. 

It was on a September day in 1893 that a young man from India, dressed in the traditional saffron robes of a Hindu monk, addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It was the first time he had gone abroad and it was the first time he was speaking in public. Yet his first few words beginning with his greetings to the 'sisters and brothers of America' electrified the audience and brought forth an applause that lasted for over two minutes. 

Swami Vivekananda's Chicago address is a proud moment in India's history and it heralded the arrival of one of India's greatest spiritual leaders on the world stage. 

Swami Vivekanandaji dedicated his life to the service of his motherland and to the spiritual awakening of Indian people. He worked to instill pride in his countrymen in their cultural heritage. He tried to build a national consciousness that was modern, rational and universal. 

It is a deep honour for me to be able to offer my homage to this great noble son of India, who by his words and his work inspired millions of people in our country as well as in foreign lands. 

Swami Vivekananda's dress was that of a sanyasi; his calling was that of a religious leader and profound spiritual thinker. But he was not an ordinary man and his intellect and vitality would not allow him to be confined to a life of renunciation. Swami Vivekananda was always engaged with the people and he worked for their well-being and for their betterment. He travelled the length and breadth of the country and sought to enrich Indian religious thought by emphasizing the importance of work and commitment to the people in his teachings. 

Vivekananda tried to spread his ideas by speaking directly to the people, especially to the youth. He believed that the absence of self-respect was at the root of India's weakness. He exhorted the people to inculcate self-respect. He wanted every Indian to be proud of being an Indian and being capable of saying that every Indian is my brother or sister. His message broke through the shackles of caste and creed and spoke of a language of universal brotherhood. 

When Mahatma Gandhi visited Belur Math on Swami Vivekananda's birthday in 1921, he said, "I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold." 

What Gandhiji said captures the great importance of spreading Swami Vivekananda's ideas and ideals among the youth in our country today. He personified the eternal energy of the youth and their restless quest for truth. It is entirely fitting that the Government of India has declared 12th January, the birthday of Swami Vivekananda, as National Youth Day. We must work to rekindle the eternal message of this great patriot and son of India. 

To carry forward his ideas, Swami Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission, an organization that would be devoted to spreading the message of his spiritual master, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, while working for the welfare of the people. It is a tribute to his vision that the Ramakrishna Mission continues to earn enormous goodwill among the people a hundred years after its establishment. The monastic order has 172 branches across the globe, of which 128 are in India. The Ramakrishna Mission is widely recognized for its commendable work in the areas of value based education, culture, health, women's empowerment, youth and tribal welfare and relief and rehabilitation. 

I fervently hope that Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary will be an occasion to expand the activities and good work being done by the Ramakrishna Mission. I can assure the Mission of our government's full support and co-operation in the fulfillment of the noble mission. 

The Government of India has set up a National Committee, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, to guide the conduct of the commemorations of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in a befitting manner. 

During its first meeting last year, a number of constructive suggestions were made for events and activities to popularize the teachings of Swami Vivekananda during this anniversary year. These suggestions include the publication of his complete works, international conferences and seminars on his teachings, establishing chairs in universities, annual lectures, encouraging research in inter-faith dialogue and involving states and local organizations in commemorating Swami Vivekananda's travels in India. I expect that these ideas would soon be translated in to concrete plans of action which could be ready for implementation by the year 2013. 

The Government of India has already approved a film on Swami Vivekananda by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust. 

We should make special efforts to commemorate Swami Vivekananda's Address in Chicago. I understand that there is a plaque placed at the spot in the Art Institute of Chicago where the historic address was delivered and that the City of Chicago has also named the stretch of the Avenue on which the Art Institute of Chicago is located as the Swami Vivekananda way. We are working on a suitable commemorative event in Chicago. 

Swami Vivekananda had very definite and enlightened views on education. He conceived of education as the primary means of rebuilding Indian society. He once said: 

'The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion - is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one's own legs.' 

Our government has approved in principle a grant of Rs. 100 crores for a "Value Education Project" of the Ramakrishna Mission. I sincerely hope that the project will help to inculcate in our children a moral compass and a value system that provides a bulwark against the tide of commercialism and consumerism that is sweeping our societies. 

I wish to end by returning to the life and message of Swami Vivekananda. He was born when India was under colonial subjugation but was never overcome with either despondency or cynicism. He confronted reality and worked tirelessly to change it. He said: 

'To succeed, you must have tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. "I will drink the ocean," says the persevering soul, "at my will mountains will crumble up." Have that sort of energy, that sort of will, work hard, and you will reach the goal.' 

Swami Vivekananda believed in the people of India. We need to rededicate ourselves to that belief and to his mission of building a self-confident India where each citizen has the right to his or her own self-respect, dignity and well being. With these words I once again express my great happiness for being present on this very auspicious occasion." 
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